corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.08.20
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible
1 Corinthians 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1.Now concerning spiritual things. He goes on to correct another fault. As the Corinthians abused the gifts of God for ostentation and show, and love was little, if at all, regarded, he shows them for what purpose believers are adorned by God with spiritual gifts — for the edification of their brethren. This proposition, however, he divides into two parts; for, in the first place, he teaches, that God is the author of those gifts, and, secondly, having established this, he reasons as to their design. He proves from their own experience, that those things in which they gloried, are bestowed upon men through the exercise of God’s favor; for he reminds them how ignorant they were, and stupid, and destitute of all spiritual light, previously to God’s calling them. Hence it appears, that they had been furnished with them — not by nature, but through God’s unmerited benignity.

As to the words; when he says — I would not that ye should be ignorant, we must supply the expression — as to what is right, or as to what is your duty, or some similar expression; and by spiritual things he means spiritual gifts, as to which we shall have occasion to see afterwards. In what follows there is a twofold reading; for some manuscripts have simply ὅτι others add ὅτε. The former means because — assigning a reason: the latter means when; and this latter reading suits much better. But besides this diversity, the construction is in other respects confused; but still, the meaning is evident. Literally, it is this — Ye know, that when ye were Gentiles, after dumb idols, according as ye were led, following I have, however, faithfully given Paul’s meaning. By dumb idols he means — having neither feeling nor motion.

Let us learn from this passage how great is the blindness of the human mind: when it is without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as it stands in amazement at dumb idols, (726) and cannot rise higher in searching after God; nay more, it is led by Satan as if it were a brute. (727) He makes use of the term Gentiles here, in the same sense as in Ephesians 2:12.

Ye were at one time Gentiles, says he, without God,
strangers to the hope of salvation, etc.

Perhaps, too, he reasons by way of contrast. What if (728) they should now show themselves to be less submissive to God, after his having taken them under his care, to be governed by his word and Spirit, than they formerly discovered themselves to be forward and compliant, in following the suggestions of Satan!


Verse 3

3.Wherefore I give you to know. Having admonished them from their own experience, he sets before them a general doctrine, which he deduces from it; for what the Corinthians had experienced in themselves is common to all mankind — to wander on in error, (729) previously to their being brought back, through the kindness of God, into the way of truth. Hence it is necessary that we should be directed by the Spirit of God, or we shall wander on for ever. From this, too, it follows, that all things that pertain to the true knowledge of God, are the gifts of the Holy Spirit,. He at the same time derives an argument from opposite causes to opposite effects. No one, speaking by the Spirit of God, can revile Christ; so, on the other hand, no one can speak well of Christ, but by the Spirit of Christ. To say that Jesus is accursed is utter blasphemy against him. To say that Jesus is the Lord, is to speak of him in honorable terms and with reverence, and to extol his majesty.

Here it is asked — “As the wicked sometimes speak of Christ in honorable and magnificent terms, is this an indication that they have the Spirit of God?” I answer — “They undoubtedly have, so far as that effect is concerned; but the gift of regeneration is one thing, and the gift of bare intelligence, with which Judas himself was endowed, when he preached the gospel, is quite another.” Hence, too, we perceive how great our weakness is, as we cannot so much as move our tongue for the celebration of God’s praise, unless it be governed by his Spirit. Of this the Scripture, also, frequently reminds us, and the saints everywhere acknowledge that unless the Lord open their mouths, they are not fit to be the heralds of his praise. Among others, Isaiah says — I am a man of unclean lips, etc. (Isaiah 6:5.)


Verse 4

4.Now there are diversities of gifts The symmetry of the Church (730) consists, so to speak, of a manifold unity, (731) that is, when the variety of gifts is directed to the same object, as in music there are different sounds, but suited to each other with such an adaptation, as to produce concord. Hence it is befitting that there should be a distinction of gifts as well as of offices, and yet all harmonize in one. Paul, accordingly, in Romans 12:6, commends this variety, that no one may, by rashly intruding himself into another’s place, confound the distinction which the Lord has established. Hence he orders every one to be contented with his own gifts, and cultivate the particular department that has been assigned to him. (732) He prohibits them from going beyond their own limits by a foolish ambition. In fine, he exhorts that every one should consider how much has been given him, what measure has been allotted to him, and to what he has been called. Here, on the other hand, he orders every one to bring what he has to the common heap, and not keep back the gifts of God in the way of enjoying every one his own, apart from the others, (733) but aim unitedly at the edification of all in common. In both passages, he brings forward the similitude of the human body, but, as may be observed, on different accounts. The sum of what he states amounts to this — that gifts are not distributed thus variously among believers, in order that they may be used apart, but that in the division there is a unity, inasmuch as one Spirit is the source of all those gifts, one God is the Lord of all administrations, and the author of all exercises of power. Now God, who is the beginning, ought also to be the end.

One Spirit This passage ought to be carefully observed in opposition to fanatics, (734) who think that the name Spirit means nothing essential, but merely the gifts or actions of divine power. Here, however, Paul plainly testifies, that there is one essential power of God, whence all his works proceed. The term Spirit, it is true, is sometimes transferred by metonymy to the gifts themselves. Hence we read of the Spirit of knowledge — of judgment — of fortitude — of modesty. (735) Paul, however, here plainly testifies that judgment, and knowledge, and gentleness, and all other gifts, proceed from one source. For it is the office of the Holy Spirit to put forth and exercise the power of God by conferring these gifts upon men, and distributing them among them.

One Lord. The ancients made use of this testimony in opposition to the Arians, for the purpose of maintaining a Trinity of persons. For there is mention made here of the Spirit, secondly of the Lord, and lastly of God, and to these Three, one and the same operation is ascribed. Thus, by the name Lord, they understood Christ. But for my part, though I have no objection to its being understood in this way, I perceive, at the same time, that it is a weak argument for stopping the mouths of Arians; for there is a correspondence between the word administrations and the word Lord. The administrations, says Paul, are different, but there is only one God whom we must serve, whatever administration we discharge. This antithesis, then, shows what is the simple meaning, so that to confine it to Christ is rather forced.


Verse 6

6.One God that worketh. Where we use the word powers the Greek term is ἐνεργήματα , a term which contains an allusion to the verb worketh, as in Latin effectus (an effect) corresponds with the verb effectus (to effect.) Paul’s meaning is, that although believers may be endowed with different powers, they all take their rise from one and the same power on the part of God. Hence the expression employed here — worketh all things in all — does not refer to the general providence of God, but to the liberality that he exercises towards us, in bestowing upon every one some gift. The sum is this — that there is nothing in mankind that is good or praiseworthy but what comes from God alone. Hence it is out of place here to agitate the question — in what manner God acts in Satan and in reprobates.


Verse 7

7.But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man He now points out the purpose for which God has appointed his gifts, for he does not confer them upon us in vain, nor does he intend that they shall serve the purpose of ostentation. Hence we must inquire as to the purpose for which they are conferred. As to this Paul answers — (with a view to utility) πρὸς τὸ συμφερον; that is, that the Church may receive advantage thereby. The manifestation of the Spirit may be taken in a passive as well as in an active sense — in a passive sense, because wherever there is prophecy, or knowledge, or any other gift, the Spirit of God does there manifest himself — in an active sense, because the Spirit of God, when he enriches us with any gift, unlocks his treasures, for the purpose of manifesting to us those things that would otherwise have been concealed and shut up. The second interpretation suits better. The view taken by Chrysostom is rather harsh and forced — that this term is used, (736) because unbelievers do not recognize God, except by visible miracles.


Verse 8

8.To one is given He now subjoins an enumeration, or, in other words, specifies particular kinds — not indeed all of them, but such as are sufficient for his present purpose. “Believers,” says he, “are endowed with different gifts, but let every one acknowledge, that he is indebted for whatever he has to the Spirit of God, for he pours forth his gifts as the sun scatters his rays in every direction. As to the difference between these gifts, knowledge (or understanding) and wisdom are taken in different senses in the Scriptures, but here I take them in the way of less and greater, as in Colossians 2:3, where they are also joined together, when Paul says, that in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge, therefore, in my opinion, means acquaintance with sacred things Wisdom, on the other hand, means the perfection of it. Sometimes prudence is put, as it were, in the middle place between these two, and in that case it denotes skill (737) in applying knowledge to some useful purpose. They are, it is true, very nearly allied; but still you observe a difference when they are put together. Let us then takeknowledge as meaning ordinary information, and wisdom, as including revelations that are of a more secret and sublime order. (738)

The term faith is employed here to mean a special faith, as we shall afterwards see from the context. A special faith is of such a kind as does not apprehend Christ wholly, for redemption, righteousness, and sanctification, but only in so far as miracles are performed in his name. Judas had a faith of this kind, and he wrought miracles too by means of it. Chrysostom distinguishes it in a somewhat different manner, calling it the faith of miracles, not of doctrines. (739) This, however, does not differ much from the interpretation previously mentioned. By the gift of healings (740) every one knows what is meant.

As to the workings of powers, or, as some render it, the operations of influences, there is more occasion for doubt. I am inclined, however, to think, that what is meant is the influence which is exercised against devils, and also against hypocrites. When, therefore, Christ and his Apostles by authority restrained devils, or put them to flight, that was ἐνέργημα , (powerful working,) and, in like manner, when Paul smote the sorcerer with blindness, (Acts 13:11,) and when Peter struck Ananias and Sapphira dead upon the spot with a single word. The gifts of healing and of miracles, therefore, serve to manifest the goodness of God, but this last, his severity for the destruction of Satan. (741)

By prophecy, I understand the singular and choice endowment of unfolding the secret will of God, so that a Prophet is a messenger, as it were, between God and man. (742) My reason for taking this view will be explained more fully afterwards.

Thediscerning of spirits, was a clearness of perception in forming a judgment as to those who professed to be something. (Acts 5:36.) I speak not of that natural wisdom, by which we are regulated in judging. It was a special illumination, with which some were endowed by the gift of God. The use of it was this: that they might not be imposed upon by masks, of mere pretences, (743) but might by that spiritual judgment distinguish, as by a particular mark, the true ministers of Christ from the false.

There was a difference between the knowledge of tongues, and the interpretation of them, for those who were endowed with the former were, in many cases, not acquainted with the language of the nation with which they had to deal. The interpreters (744) rendered foreign tongues into the native language. These endowments they did not at that time acquire by labor or study, but were put in possession of them by a wonderful revelation of the Spirit. (745)

I . ̔Ω μὲν — λόγος σοφίας — (I. To one, the word of wisdom)
2
. ἄλλῳ δὲ λογος γνώσες — (2. to another, the word of knowledge.)
II
. ̔ΕΤΕΡΩ δὲ πίστις — (II. To another, faith,)
1
. ἄλλῳ δὲ χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων — (1. to another, gifts of healing,)
2
. ἄλλῳ δὲ ἐνεργήματα δυμάμεων — (2. to another, working of miracles,)
3
. ἄλλῳ δὲ προφητεια — (3. to another, prophecy,)
4
. ἄλλῳ δὲ διαχρίσεις πνευμάτων — (4. to another, discerning of spirits.)
III
. ̔ΕΤΕΡΩ δὲ γένη γλωσσῶν — (III. To another, divers kinds of tongues,)
2
. ἄλλῳ δὲ ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν — (2. to another, interpretation of tongues.)

Thus the first class includes “the word of wisdom,” and “the word of knowledge. Under the head of faith, that is, the faith of miracles, four kinds of gifts are enumerated — “gifts of healing,” — “working of miracles,” — “prophecy,” and “discerning of spirits;” while the third class includes “divers kinds of tongues,” and “the interpretation of tongues.” See Henderson on Inspiration. — Ed.


Verse 11

11.One and the same spirit distributing. Hence it follows that those act amiss who, having no concern as to participation, break asunder that holy harmony, that is fitly adjusted in all its parts, only when under the guidance of the same Spirit, all conspire toward one and the same object. He again calls the Corinthians to unity, by reminding them that all have derived from one fountain whatever they possess, while he instructs them, at the same time, that no one has so much as to have enough within himself, so as not to require help from others. For this is what he means by these words —distributing to every one severally as he willeth The Spirit of God, therefore, distributes them among us, in order that we may make all contribute to the common advantage. To no one does he give all, lest any one, satisfied with his particular portion, should separate himself from others, and live solely for himself. The same idea is intended in the adverb severally, as it is of great importance to understand accurately that diversity by which God unites us mutually to one another. (746) Now, when will is ascribed to the Spirit, and that, too, in connection with power, we may conclude from this, that the Spirit is truly and properly God.


Verse 12

12.For as the body is one He now derives a similitude from the human body, which he makes use of also in Romans 12:4; but it is for a different purpose, as I have already stated above. In that passage, he exhorts every one to be satisfied with his own calling, and not to invade another’s territory; as ambition, curiosity, or some other disposition, induces many to take in hand more than is expedient. Here, however, he exhorts believers to cleave to each other in a mutual distribution of gifts, as they were not conferred upon them by God that every one should enjoy his own separately, but that one should help another. It is usual, however, for any society of men, or congregation, to be called a body, as one city constitutes a body, and so, in like manner, one senate, and one people. Monenius Agrippa, (747) too, in ancient times, when desirous to conciliate the Roman people, when at variance with the senate, made use of an apologue, not very unlike the doctrine of Paul here. (748) Among Christians, however, the case is very different; for they do not constitute a mere political body, but are the spiritual and mystical body of Christ, as Paul himself afterwards adds. (1 Corinthians 12:27.) The meaning therefore is — “Though the members of the body are various, and have different functions, they are, nevertheless, linked together in such a manner that they coalesce in one. (749) We, accordingly, who are members of Christ, although we are endowed with various gifts, ought, notwithstanding, to have an eye to that connection which we have in Christ.”

So also is Christ The name of Christ is used here instead of the Church, because the similitude was intended to apply not to God’s only-begotten Son, but to us. It is a passage that is full of choice consolation, inasmuch as he calls the Church Christ; for Christ (750) confers upon us this honor — that he is willing to be esteemed and recognised, not in himself merely, but also in his members. Hence the same Apostle says elsewhere, (Ephesians 1:23,) that the Church is his completion, (751) as though he would, if separated from his members, be incomplete. And certainly, as Augustine elegantly expresses himself in one part of his writings —

“Since we are in Christ a fruit-bearing vine, what are we out of him but dry twigs?” (John 15:4.)

In this, then, our consolation lies — that, as he and the Father are one, so we are one with him. Hence it is that his name is applied to us.


Verse 13

13.For we are all baptized by one Spirit. Here there is a proof brought forward from the effect of baptism. “We are,” says he, “engrafted by baptism into Christ’s body, so that we are by a mutual link bound together as members, and live one and the same life. Hence every one, that would remain in the Church of Christ, must necessarily cultivate this fellowship.” He speaks, however, of the baptism of believers, which is efficacious through the grace of the Spirit, for, in the case of many, baptism is merely in the letter — the symbol without the reality; but believers, along with the sacrament, receive the reality. Hence, with respect to God, this invariably holds good — that baptism is an engrafting into the body of Christ, for God in that ordinance does not represent anything but what he is prepared to accomplish, provided we are on our part capable of it. The Apostle, also, observes here a most admirable medium, in teaching that the nature of baptism is — to connect us with Christ’s body. Lest any one, however, should imagine, that this is effected by the outward symbol, he adds that it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Whether Jews or Greeks. He specifies these instances, to intimate, that no diversity of condition obstructs that holy unity which he recommends. This clause, too, is added suitably and appropriately, for envy might at that time arise from two sources — because the Jews were not willing that the Gentiles should be put upon a level with them; and, where one had some excellence above others, with the view of maintaining his superiority, lie withdrew himself to a distance from his brethren.

We have all drunk in one Spirit. It is literally, “We have drunk into one Spirit,” but it would seem that, in order that the two words ἐν (in) and ἑν (one) might not immediately follow each other, Paul intentionally changed ἐν (in) into ἐις (into,) as he is accustomed frequently to do. Hence his meaning seems rather to be, that we are made to drink through the influence, as he had said before, of the Spirit of Christ, than that we have drunk into the same Spirit. It is uncertain, however, whether he speaks here of Baptism or of the Supper. I am rather inclined, however, to understand him as referring to the Supper, as he makes mention of drinking, for I have no doubt that he intended to make an allusion to the similitude of the sign. There is, however, no correspondence between drinking and baptism. Now, though the cup forms but the half of the Supper, there is no difficulty arising from that, for it is a common thing in Scripture to speak of the sacraments by synecdoche. (752) Thus he mentioned above in the tenth chapter (1 Corinthians 10:17) simply the bread, making no mention of the cup. The meaning, therefore, will be this — that participation in the cup has an eye to this — that we drink, all of us, of the same cup. For in that ordinance we drink of the life-giving blood of Christ, that we may have life in common with him — which we truly have, when he lives in us by his Spirit. He teaches, therefore, that believers, so soon as they are initiated by the baptism of Christ, are already imbued with a desire of cultivating mutual unity, (753) and then afterwards, when they receive the sacred Supper, they are again conducted by degrees to the same unity, as they are all refreshed at the same time with the same drink.


Verse 15

15.This is a bringing out still farther ( ἐπεξεργασία ) of the preceding statement, or in other words, an exposition of it, with some amplification, with the view of placing in a clearer light, what he had previously stated in a few words. Now all this accords with the apologue of Menenius Agrippa. “Should a dissension break out in the body, so that the feet would refuse to discharge their office to the rest of the body, and the belly in like manner, and the eyes, and the hands, what would be the effect? Would not the result be — the destruction of the whole body?” At the same time Paul here insists more particularly on this one point — that each member ought to rest satisfied with its own place and station, and not envy the others, for he institutes a comparison between the more distinguished members, and those that have less dignity. For the eye has a more honorable place in the body than the hand, and the hand than the foot But if our hands were, from a feeling of envy, to refuse to discharge their office, would nature endure this? Would the hand be listened to, when wishing to be separated from the body?

To be not of the body, means here — to have no communication with the other members, but to live for itself, and to seek only its own advantage. “Would it then,” says Paul, “be allowable for the hand to refuse to do its office to the other members, on the ground of its bearing envy to the eyes?” These things are said of the natural body, but they must be applied to the members of the Church, lest ambition or misdirected emulation and envy should be the occasion of bad feeling among us, (754) so as to lead one that occupies an inferior station to grudge to afford his services to those above him.


Verse 17

17.If the whole body were an eye He sets aside a foolish aiming at equality, by showing the impossibility of it. “If all the members,” says he, “desire the honor that belongs to the eye, the consequence will be, that the whole body will perish; for it is impossible that the body should remain safe and sound, if the members have not different functions, and a mutual correspondence between them. Hence equality interferes with the welfare of the body, because it produces a confusion that entails present ruin. What madness, then, would it be, should one member, instead of giving way to another, (755) conspire for its own ruin and that of the body!”


Verse 18

18.But now God hath placed. Here we have another argument, taken from the appointment of God. “It has pleased God, that the body should consist of various members, and that the members should be endowed with various offices and gifts. That member, therefore, which will not rest satisfied with its own station, will wage war with God after the manner of the giants. (756) Let us, therefore, be subject to the arrangement which God has appointed, that we may not, to no purpose, resist his will.” (757)


Verse 19

19.If all were one member He means, that God has not acted at random, or without good reason, in assigning different gifts to the members of the body; but because it was necessary that it should be so, for the preservation of the body; for if this symmetry were taken away, there would be utter confusion and derangement. Hence we ought to submit ourselves the more carefully to the providence of God, which has so suitably arranged everything for our common advantage. One member is taken here to mean a mass, that is all of one shape, and not distinguished by any variety; for if God were to fashion our body into a mass of this kind, it would be a useless heap. (758)


Verse 20

20.Many members one body He repeats this the oftener, because the stress of the whole question lies here — that the unity of the body is of such a nature as cannot be maintained but by a diversity of members; and that, while the members differ from each other in offices and functions, it is in such a way as to have a mutual connection with each other for the preservation of the one body. Hence no body can retain its standing without a diversified symmetry of the members, that we may know to consult public as well as private advantage, by discharging, every one, the duty of his own station.


Verse 21

21.And the eye cannot say to the hand Hitherto he has been showing, what is the office of the less honorable members — to discharge their duty to the body, and not envy the more distinguished members. Now, on the other hand, he enjoins it upon the more honorable members, not to despise the inferior members, which they cannot dispense with. The eye excels the hand, and yet cannot despise it, or insult over it, as though it were useless; and he draws an argument from utility, to show that it ought to be thus — “Those members, that are less esteemed, are the more necessary: hence, with a view to the safety of the body, they must not be despised.” He makes use of the term weaker here, to mean despised, as in another passage, when he says that he glories in his infirmities, (2 Corinthians 12:9,) he expresses, under this term, those things which rendered him contemptible and abject.


Verse 23

23.Which are less honorable. Here we have a second argument — that the dishonor of one member turns out to the common disgrace of the whole body, as appears from the care that we take to cover the parts that are less honorable. “Those parts that are comely,” says he, “do not require adventitious ornament; but the parts that involve shame, or are less comely, are cared for by us with greater concern. Why so? but because their shame would be the common disgrace of the whole body.” To invest with honor is to put on a covering for the sake of ornament, in order that those members may be honorably concealed, which would involve shame if uncovered. (759)


Verse 24

24.But God hath tempered the body together He again repeats, what he had stated once before, (1 Corinthians 12:18,) but more explicitly, — that God has appointed this symmetry, and that with a view to the advantage of the whole body, because it cannot otherwise maintain its standing. “For whence comes it, that all the members are of their own accord concerned for the honor of a less comely member, and agree together to conceal its shame? This inclination has been implanted in them by God, because without this adjustment a schism in the body would quickly break out. Hence it appears that the body is not merely shattered, and the order of nature perverted, but the authority of God is openly set at naught, whenever any one assumes more than belongs to him.” (760)


Verse 26

26.Whether one member suffers “Such a measure of fellow-feeling.” ( συμπάθεια ,) (761) says he, “is to be seen in the human body, that, if any inconvenience is felt by any member, all the others grieve along with it, and, on the other hand, rejoice along with it, in its prosperity. Hence there is no room there for envy or contempt.” To be honored, here, is taken in a large sense, as meaning, to be in prosperity and happiness. Nothing, however, is better fitted to promote harmony than this community of interest, when every one feels that, by the prosperity of others, he is proportionally enriched, and, by their penury, impoverished.


Verse 27

27.But ye are the body of Christ Hence what has been said respecting the nature and condition of the human body must be applied to us; for we are not a mere civil society, but, being ingrafted into Christ’s body, are truly members one of another. Whatever, therefore, any one of us has, let him know that it has been given him for the edification of his brethren in common; and let him, accordingly, bring it forward, and not keep it back — buried, as it were, within himself, or make use of it as his own. Let not the man, who is endowed with superior gifts, be puffed up with pride, and despise others; but let him consider that there is nothing so diminutive as to be of no use — as, in truth, even the least among the pious brings forth fruit, according to his slender capacity, so that there is no useless member in the Church. Let not those who are not endowed with so much honor, envy those above them, or refuse to do their duty to them, but let them maintain the station in which they have been placed. Let there be mutual affection, mutual fellow-feeling, ( συμπάθεια ,) mutual concern. Let us have a regard to the common advantage, in order that we may not destroy the Church by malignity, or envy, or pride, or any disagreement; but may, on the contrary, every one of us, strive to the utmost of his power to preserve it. Here is a large subject, and a magnificent one; (762) but I content myself with having pointed out the way in which the above similitude must be applied to the Church.

Members severally. Chrysostom is of opinion, that this clause is added, because the Corinthians were not the universal Church; but this appears to me rather forced. (763) I have sometimes thought that it was expressive of impropriety, as the Latins say Quodammodo , (764) (in a manner.) (765) When, however, I view the whole matter more narrowly, I am rather disposed to refer it to that division of members of which he had made mention. They are then members severally, according as each one has had his portion and definite work assigned him. The context itself leads us to this meaning. In this way severally, and as a whole, will be opposite terms.


Verse 28

He has in the beginning of the chapter spoken of gifts: now he begins to treat of offices, and this order it is proper that we should carefully observe. For the Lord did not appoint ministers, without first endowing them with the requisite gifts, and qualifying them for discharging their duty. Hence we must infer, that those are fanatics, and actuated by an evil spirit, who intrude themselves into the Church, while destitute of the necessary qualifications, as many boast that they are under the influence of the Spirit, and glory in a secret call from God, while in the meantime they are unlearned and utterly ignorant. The natural order, on the other hand, is this — that gifts come before the office to be discharged. As, then, he has taught above, that everything that an individual has received from God, should be made subservient to the common good, so now he declares that offices are distributed in such a manner, that all may together, by united efforts, edify the Church, and each individual according to his measure. (767)

28. First, Apostles He does not enumerate all the particular kinds, and there was no need of this, for he merely intended to bring forward some examples. In the fourth Chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, (Ephesians 4:11,) there is a fuller enumeration of the offices, that are required for the continued government of the Church. The reason of this I shall assign there, if the Lord shall permit me to advance so far, though even there he does not make mention of them all. As to the passage before us, we must observe, that of the offices which Paul makes mention of, some are perpetual, others temporary. Those that are perpetual, are such as are necessary for the government of the Church; those that are temporary, are such as were appointed at the beginning for the founding of the Church, and the raising up of Christ’s kingdom; and these, in a short time afterwards, ceased.

To the first class belongs the office of Teacher, to the second the office of Apostle; for the Lord created the Apostles, that they might spread the gospel throughout the whole world, and he did not assign to each of them certain limits or parishes, but would have them, wherever they went, to discharge the office of ambassadors among all nations and languages. In this respect there is a difference between them and Pastors, who are, in a manner, tied to their particular churches. For the Pastor has not a commission to preach the gospel over the whole world, but to take care of the Church that has been committed to his charge. In his Epistle to the Ephesians he places Evangelists after the Apostles, but here he passes them over; for from the highest order, he passes immediately to Prophets

By this term he means, (in my opinion,) not those who were endowed with the gift of prophesying, but those who were endowed with a peculiar gift, not merely for interpreting Scripture, but also for applying it wisely for present use. (768) My reason for thinking so is this, that he prefers prophecy to all other gifts, on the ground of its yielding more edification — a commendation that would not be applicable to the predicting of future events. Farther, when he describes the office of Prophet, or at least treats of what he ought principally to do, he says that he must devote himself to consolation, exhortation, and doctrine. Now these are things that are distinct from prophesyings. (769) Let us, then, by Prophets in this passage understand, first of all, eminent interpreters of Scripture, and farther, persons who are endowed with no common wisdom and dexterity in taking a right view of the present necessity of the Church, that they may speak suitably to it, and in this way be, in a manner, ambassadors to communicate the divine will.

Between them and Teachers this difference may be pointed out, that the office of Teacher consists in taking care that sound doctrines be maintained and propagated, in order that the purity of religion may be kept up in the Church. At the same time, even this term is taken in different senses, and here perhaps it is used rather in the sense of Pastor, unless you prefer, it may be, to take it in a general way for all that are endowed with the gift of teaching, as in Acts 13:1, where also Luke conjoins them with Prophets. My reason for not agreeing with those who make the whole of the office of Prophet consist in the interpretation of Scripture, is this — that Paul restricts the number of those who ought to speak, to two or three; (1 Corinthians 14:29,) which would not accord with a bare interpretation of Scripture. In fine, my opinion is this — that the Prophets here spoken of are those who make known the will of God, by applying with dexterity and skill prophecies, threatenings, promises, and the whole doctrine of Scripture, to the present use of the Church. If any one is of a different opinion, I have no objection to his being so, and will not raise any quarrel on that account. For it is difficult to form a judgment as to gifts and offices of which the Church has been so long deprived, excepting only that there are some traces, or shadows of them still to be seen.

As to powers and gift of healings, I have spoken when commenting on the 12th Chapter of the Romans. Only it must be observed that here he makes mention, not so much of the gifts themselves, as of the administration of them. As the Apostle is here enumerating offices, I do not approve of what Chrysostom says, that ἀντιλήψεις, that is, helps or aids, consist in supporting the weak. What is it then? Undoubtedly, it is either an office, as well as gift, that was exercised in ancient times, but of which we have at this day no knowledge whatever; or it is connected with the office of Deacon, or in other words, the care of the poor; and this latter idea pleases me better. (770) In Romans 12:7, he makes mention of two kinds of deacons. Of these I have treated when commenting upon that passage.

By Governments I understand Elders, who had the charge of discipline. For the primitive Church had its Senate, (771) for the purpose of keeping the people in propriety of deportment, as Paul shows elsewhere, when he makes mention of two kinds of Presbyters. (772) (1 Timothy 5:17.) Hence government consisted of those Presbyters who excelled others in gravity, experience, and authority.

Under different kinds of tongues he comprehends both the knowledge of languages, and the gift of interpretation. They were, however, two distinct gifts; because in some cases an individual spoke in different languages, and yet did not understand the language of the Church with which he had to do. This defect was supplied by interpreters. (773)


Verse 29

29.Are all Apostles ? It may indeed have happened, that one individual was endowed with many gifts, and sustained two of the offices which he has enumerated; nor was there in this any inconsistency. Paul’s object, however, is to show in the first place, that no one has such a fullness in everything as to have a sufficiency within himself, and not require the aid of others; and secondly, that offices as well as gifts are distributed in such a manner that no one member constitutes the whole body, but each contributing his portion to the common advantage, they then altogether constitute an entire and perfect body. For Paul means here to take away every occasion of proud boasting, base envyings, haughtiness, and contempt of the brethren, malignity, ambition, and everything of that nature.


Verse 31

31.Seek after the more excellent gifts. It might also be rendered — Value highly; and it would not suit in with the passage, though it makes little difference as to the meaning; for Paul exhorts the Corinthians to esteem and desire those gifts especially, which are most conducive to edification. For this fault prevailed among them — that they aimed at show, rather than usefulness. Hence prophecy was neglected, while languages sounded forth among them, with great show, indeed, but with little profit. He does not, however, address individuals, as though he wished that every one should aspire at prophecy, or the office of teacher; but simply recommends to them a desire to promote edification, that they may apply themselves the more diligently to those things that are most conducive to edification.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/1-corinthians-12.html. 1840-57.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology